By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photos by Jack Gould (left)
and AP Wide WorldLooking back on the year just ending, the spookiest thing—eerier even than the Supreme Court playing Junta for a Day with the election—is how much President-elect George DUI Bush looks like Elian Gonzalez.
The look works on Elian. He's—what?—7 years old and has been through shipwreck and celebrity; he's supposedto appear big-eared and bewildered. But George II perpetually looks as if he forgot where he left his gym shorts.
Elian has faded from the public scene, if only temporarily, for he is blessed by the Virgin and will one day be the leader of a free Cuba, or at least bigger than Ricky Martin. Bush we will have with us for a while. Who knows what the year we look back on next year will hold? Who even knows what this year held? Hey, whose gym shorts are these!?
When Elvis sang, "Memories, pressed between the pages just like wine," he spoke for me, which is more than I can say. Before the inspired perfidies of the coming year drive all else from our minds, let us try to capture in these pages a few of the precious moments that made up the year 2000.
Here are some of my faves:
•Orange County starts the year on a high note, bulldozing one of its last namesake orange groves in Placentia to make way for a housing tract. New slogan: Get Plowed in Placentia! Meanwhile, typical home prices in the county have surged 9 percent in the past year to an average of $258,000.
•A National Research Council panel of scientists concludes that global warming is "undoubtedly real."
•The U.S. Supreme Court upholds citizens' right to sue environmental polluters, with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting. In his brief, Scalia explains, "I suppose it's just because we hate all living things."
•It is reported in The Wall Street Journal that "intense media attention to the [flu] outbreak is being driven in large part by the energetic promotional efforts" of two drug firms marketing flu medicines.
•It is discovered that a secret arrangement exists between drug czar Barry McCaffery and TV networks, allowing him to essentially pre-censor programs and insert anti-drug messages. In exchange, he lets them play with his uvula.
•The New Majority Committee is formed by top OC businessmen, who announce they have raised $500,000 to elect moderate Republicans and to attempt to unseat conservative county GOP chairman Tom Fuentes, who disses them as "country club Republicans."
I really wasn't paying attention this month.
•The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the winter that just ended was the warmest recorded in 105 years, with the two years previous being the next warmest.
•A newly designed Patriot missile program is $2.3 billion over budget. Other reported weapons program overruns tally an additional $4.9 billion.
•Four months into the year, OC beaches have already had as many pollution closures as in all of 1999.
•In a predawn raid that momentarily made Republicans act concerned about Americans' civil rights, Elian Gonzalez is retrieved from his Miami relatives and reunited with his father. "That's not America!" fumes Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), possibly while pointing at Canada. In the America his ilk have created, cops routinely make nighttime, SWAT-like raids on citizens' homes—often the wrong ones.
•Jesse Helms (R-Pluto), within a day of Bill Clinton's proposal to forge stronger arms-control agreements with Russia, vows to block any such agreement. Instead, Helms is backing an aggressive new "missile shield" program. Coincidentally, this same month, a panel of eminent U.S. scientists asserts that the $43 billion missile program, which doesn't, well, work, would be rendered useless by simple countermeasures if it did work, in which case it wouldn't, well, work. The $43 billion joins the $120 billion already spent since 1960 on questionable anti-missile systems.
•In utterly unrelated news, the Japanese Trade Ministry reports that it will impose military export controls on Sony's new Playstation 2 because its processing abilities could be used in missile guidance systems by, son of a bitch, the very rogue states that would be using countermeasures—and aluminum foil is a countermeasure—against our anti-missile system, if it weren't so much cheaper and easier for them just to sail a nuke-laden jolly boat into any of our welcoming harbors. Know how much smaller a nuke is than a bale of marijuana?
•The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a federal measure that gave rape victims the right to sue their attackers. In drafting the ruling, Chief Justice William Rehnquist explains, "We don't want Al Gore to be able to use it as a defense when we rape him in December."
•Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona changes department policy to allow officers to carry large-caliber pistols so they won't be "outgunned" by street criminals.
•Remember the "missile shield"? Prominent voices in the U.S. intelligence community warn that implementing the program would prompt a new arms race and damage relations with European allies, proving that the missile shield does work if you're an arms manufacturer and the goal is a lucrative new cold war. Some of the same technology is also being touted by OC Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) as a shield against killer asteroids hitting the Earth, an event most scientists accord tremendously lower probability than global warming, which Rohrabacher calls a liberal fiction.